Why I won’t be joining your Twitter Thunderclap

This is by way of explanation to the many people who ask me to join their Twitter Thunderclaps.

If you don’t know what a Twitter Thunderclap is, it’s a service whereby you can encourage people to sign up at a website, and then all the accounts which are subscribed send out the same tweet at the same time. It is used in support of campaigns.

I won’t be joining it because I hate it. I constantly tell people that social media is about being social. It’s about conversations. What happens when there is a Thunderclap is that people’s Twitter timelines get blitzed by hundreds or thousands of identical tweets. To me, this is a blunt instrument. It’s like loads of people running simultaneously into the room where I am and yelling at me. And what does it achieve? Only the people online at the time the Thunderclap goes out see it. The rest miss it completely. I suspect that only reason it persists is that most of the people who participate don’t actually see what happens. They are too busy doing other things.

To me, the essence of social media campaigning is engaging people in conversations about your cause. It is about building up momentum through posting different kinds of content over a period of time. It is about being engaging, being human, and being entertaining. I believe Thunderclaps are the antithesis of this. So I won’t be participating. And, I hope you will consider the impact of yelling at me in this way before you sign up for your next Thunderclap.


7 thoughts on “Why I won’t be joining your Twitter Thunderclap

  1. Hi John. Enjoyed the blog but don’t myself hate Thunderclap, think it can be effective, like with all tools, if relevant and thought out.

    While I can agree that it can be seen by some as anti social automated info like SumAll follow/unfollow accounts and that it won’t reach everyone it’s intended to, I think how (or when) it’s used in a campaign can change its benefit.

    If its intended use is to make an impact/bang/clap/boom/whizz and is seen as THE START of something and not the end of something, then perhaps it is more effective? A way to kick start a campaign and reach a wider passionate audience to create momentum for a campaign, and then start and continue those engaging social conversations using different content which I agree are crucial to success.

    It seems Thunderclap can be a way to reach others with a message otherwise not reachable in such a busy room with lots of people shouting; sometimes shouting louder has some benefits? But not in isolation.

    I went to a third sector conference a few years ago where Meningitis Now highlighted a Thunderclap as a key component in the success of their B vaccine campaign (key, not only). In that case I believe it was used as a petition equivalent to show government how important it was to people in one big go, instead of many disconnected conversations that THEY (Meningitis Now) knew were happening, but others that mattered to them (Government) couldn’t see, or weren’t presented with it at least.

    (Would say that personally I don’t lend myself to that way of showing support, I too would prefer a conversation around a topic I’m passionate about, but I have used Thunderclap and will continue to think about using it when relevant, because I feel others do engage with it and it can have impact.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts – always an interesting read!

    • Thanks, Will

      I’d missed that activity from Meningitis Now, which might kind of make one of my points, as I usually take note of what they are doing as someone who had Meningitis myself at age 6.

  2. Really interesting point of view John.

    I joined the #homesforbritain one partly out a sense of obligation. The fact I did it without any real thought probably backs up your argument. It was undeniable powerful to see my Tweetdeck light up at 3pm – but lets be honest – how many really engage with Twitter this way?

    I just saw the comment from Visceral Biz on your Twitter convo about the implicit coercion and this being the antithesis of how to build trust. I completely agree with this

    I just read this in a post by @canopygap that I think is relevant to too:
    “No campaign, methodology, program, or strategy can lead to trust because it is inherently relational. You can’t proclaim, “Trust us” and expect people to follow. (In fact, the opposite normally happens). Trust is an outcome based on experience.”

    Thunderclap and other hashtag activism are often entirely without context and – as you say – a little like shouting at someone.

    Perceptive post that’s made me think. Thanks.

  3. Interesting point John!

    I think Thunderclap is a useful way for busy people to contribute to a cause and help get some visibility over the dull roar of the Twitter stream. Not everyone can be a vocal activist – as you point out that takes a sustained approach over time.

    There is a danger that it absolves some (who could be proper activists) of taking further action because they think they’ve already done something.

    As Will points out, perhaps best used as part of a broader campaign not just in isolation.

  4. Interesting blog and I agree a blunt instrument. However I have used it at work – once for a colleague’s campaign launch where the bluntness was needed to show at least some of the potential of social media to our organisation, if not the finesse.

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